Pakistan is totally reliant on the surface and groundwater resources of the Indus Basin to support food, energy and economic security. Pakistan faces some significant challenges with more than 40% of the population malnourished, the number of people impacted by this is increasing with a rapidly growing population. These issues are exacerbated by unsustainable use of groundwater, changes in the seasonality of inflows, and limited storage (30 days of use). On this basis the Indus Basin is one of the most vulnerable river basins in Asia.
Pakistan and Australia have a long history of working together and the similarities between the Indus and the Murray-Darling Basin provide a foundation for a strong water partnership. Building on this foundation, the Australian government through its Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio (SDIP) helped Pakistan implement Australian water resource management technologies, and built local capacity in integrated water resources management and impact assessment. The project was led by CSIRO and funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and CSIRO.
With limited storage, predictions of water availability for the coming irrigation season are important for the equitable and efficient delivery of water throughout the Indus system in Pakistan. SDIP improved predictions of future seasonal inflows in Pakistan. SDIP also assisted Pakistan in building a modelling framework that considered the interaction between surface and groundwater resources. The framework supports Pakistan in understanding the impacts of climate, management interventions and infrastructure development on water, food and energy security and the associated impacts on people, particularly the poor and vulnerable.
The implementation of Australian water management technologies and associated capacity building has supported a more productive and water secure Pakistan.
A new generation of water management tools
Several key tools have been developed to assess water availability, sharing and delivery:
- Indus River System Model (IRSM) a planning tool to explore water management options in Pakistan: model conceptualisation, configuration and calibration
- Rainfall Runoff models are used in conjunction with daily gridded climate datasets to assess the volume of water available for use in Pakistan
- Seasonal flow forecasting tools are used to predict water availability for the coming cropping season
- River system models support decision making in the sharing and timely delivery of water
- Groundwater use assessment models to support decision-making in sustainable groundwater use as part of an integrated groundwater and surface water system
- Water quality assessments support managing the delivery of safe and secure drinking water. For example:
- Food security analysis and Cropping systems modelling explore future food and water trends along with the implications of different water availability scenarios on food production.
- Investigation of women’s participation in various farm production activities as well as policies that lead to the gender pay gap and gender inequality in Punjab rice-wheat system.
Water management tools are linked within a framework to explore water related development scenarios for Pakistan. Scenarios of interest include:
- Climate change: assessing the impact of changes in volume and timing of river flows entering the irrigated plains of Pakistan.
- Population growth: assessing the impacts on energy and food security into the future as a finite water resource is shared amongst a greater number of people. With a focus on impacts on the poor and vulnerable.
- Infrastructure development: assessing the trade-offs between different development options. Understanding what this means for the different provinces, local and downstream communities.
Gender impact and implications for water governance
To understand the gender impact of water governance and management decisions in Pakistan a collaborative case study at Manchar Lake was undertaken between the the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) and the CSIRO SDIP team.
Environmental degradation not only affects the biophysical world, but also people’s livelihoods and wellbeing. Manchar Lake has suffered significant environmental degradation; the work of the CSIRO SDIP team in this project provided insights into the impacts of this degradation on livelihoods, health, children and education and how this translates to gender impacts.
Some of the findings may assist in framing future research and water resource management plans.
- Alternative livelihood options are needed: Poor water quality management in Manchar Lake has reduced livelihood options for women and men, requiring rapid shifts to alternative livelihoods.
- Families need support to overcome increased health problems: Poor health associated with poor water quality is lowering school attendance and reducing access to education, particularly for girls.
- Gender-sensitive water resource management: Research documenting the lived experiences of women and men provides richer insights that reveal the true costs of poor water quality and the unintended impacts.
We wish to thank and acknowledge PCRWR, Sindh Irrigation Department, Mehran University of Engineering and Technology and Australian National University as partners and advisers in this research.
Project leader: Mobin Ahmad
More reports, fact sheets and information are available on the SDIP publications page
Integrated modelling framework
Linking field, irrigation district and basin scales